Eva Talbot was in early stages of her second pregnancy when she joined B+H Architects in Seattle, WA.
She eventually had her baby and returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave. The firm didn’t have a mother’s room, and asking for a private space to pump breast milk was not something she felt she could do.
“It’s a really stressful time of life to approach your boss. It almost feels insurmountable,” reflected Talbot. “I didn’t even know this was something I could advocate for professionally.”
She found a storage room in the bottom level of the parking garage that was quiet and “warm enough.” There was no internet or cell phone reception, but aside from that, she felt she could make do.
“People would come and put things in the storage unit while I was in there. I realized if something happened to me, no one would be able to find me,” said Talbot. “The locks were on the inside.”
Gloria Cornell, another B+H mom, was pumping in a storage closet in a competitor’s office on another floor of her office building.
“I thought a closet was better than what some people had,” said Cornell. “But it was actually horrible because there were five women trying to use that space. There were days where I couldn’t pump because there were too many of us. It was a nightmare.”
Jill Jago, a marketing and communications director at B+H, noted that many moms-to-be didn’t even think a space to pump was a need until it was upon them.
“You don’t even think that’s something you have the ability to expect,” said Jago. “The attitude for many of us was, ‘How do I make do?’ not ‘How do I create something that works?’”
Enter Barry Vaudrin, a senior account manager, who had just wrapped a big revamp of the mothers’ rooms on the nearby Microsoft campus. Vaudrin has no children of his own, but he is the self-appointed ‘mother of the office’ and saw a need that he knew he could help address.
Vaudrin noticed Mamava lactation pods at airports and thought they would be a fit for the B+H office. These pods are designed as retrofit items and therefore don’t need any plumbing or heavy installation. Each pod includes a mirror, a small countertop, and a ledge that your pump fits on. There are two bench seats facing each other, so two people who felt comfortable with each other could pump simultaneously. There’s also a small fan for ventilation, which doubles as white noise.
After some research, he easily convinced upper management to invest in a Mamava for the office. At $13,000, purchasing a Mamava was a “great value. It would cost at least two to three times more to build out an equivalent room from scratch,” said Vaudrin.
It came flat packed and Vaudrin and team were able to get it up and running in four hours. They even installed a mini fridge for milk storage.
“People who aren’t nursing are jealous of our space,” said Talbot. “It’s the best private space in our office.”
Because the space can also be used for nursing in addition to pumping, B+H now has an infant friendly designation.
“It’s a lot better than nursing in the courtyard of the building,” said Jago. “I’ve done that, and it’s a fishbowl. All the windows look down onto it.”
Mamava is based in Burlington, VT. “So when we travel, we have a long way to go,” said Sascha Mayer, Mamava’s CEO.
Mayer happened to know the local airport director, who told her that they had received negative feedback from traveling moms who couldn’t find a clean, private space to pump.
“The magic of vermont is that it’s a super small state,” said Mayer. “Everybody knows each other. We said, ‘if we design and build a lactation pod, will you put it in?’ And he said sure.”
Seventh Generation, the environmentally friendly cleaning products company, is also headquartered nearby. They agreed to sponsor the first Mamavas.
Mamava hired its first employees at the end of 2015. Today, they are in 32 airports, as well as many hospitals, universities, stadiums and offices around the country. They even make inflatable pods for trade shows, conferences and other indoor or outdoor events.
Said Jago, “We’ve realized that part of advocacy is not just providing facilities, but permission for women to take time to take care of their needs.”
This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.